You Can’t Write Unless You Can Lie

Writing is a process of self-deception.

In the first place, you deceive yourself that anything you create will be read, understood, and appreciated. That’s not me being emo, that’s speaking to the large likelihood that your work will die on the vine. That’s simple statistics. So before anything else, you have to teach yourself to ignore that.

In the second place, you deceive yourself that you have time to write. Any time is writing time. An hour, a half-hour. I suck at this, which is why my production hasn’t been great lately. I allow my day, with all necessities thereunto pertaining, to impose itself upon my hour, upon my minute. The next step is to ignore everything that’s happening to you today.

Finally, you have to deceive yourself that this is some kind of calling or vocation. It is that, in one sense, but in another, it is simply the process by which a certain kind of intellect interacts with the world. Not an especially useful kind of intellect, either. I’m never going to solve an engineering problem, or cure a disease, or even advance public order in any appreciable way. All I’m doing is poking at the world with words and seeing what comes back at me. It’s supremely egotistical. But you have to ignore that, because if you don’t, you’ll either stop doing it or become the most insufferable kind of author, the kind that if he makes anything approaching art, it will be entirely by accident, and he will leave a trail of misery in every other aspect of his life. The final step is to ignore your ego, even as you tap into it.

And then, just keep swimming.


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